Video: Romance, Chinese style
Youtube version (English captions by Ministry of Tofu)
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Love, the seemingly sacred and beautiful word, is no longer that simple these days. After the Chinese society went through roller-coaster changes in the past few years, marriage, this topic of significance, seems to be more than just a matter of love. The complex interplay of factors such as money, life, and parents has led to the birth of Chinese style romance.
Students nowadays have become unprecedentedly active in dating. As many as 24.7% of junior high students (age 12-15) have had their first love, whereas 3.3% of primary school students have dated. Puppy love may be sweet, but isn’t it a bit too early? Back in the 1970s, only 3.6% of junior high students (age 12-15) fell in love, whereas the figure in primary schools was only 0.3%, and it was limited to kid stuff like passing notes. Indeed, in terms of early romantic experiences, each new generation excels the previous one much as in the Yangtze River, waves behind always drive those ahead.
On the one hand, we have parents busy tackling “puppy love,” on the other hand, we have parents busy finding dates for their children. Today, there are 180 million singles in China, 23.8% of whose parents are pulling the strings for them, which means, 260 million people are somewhat engaged in seeking romance. Those who do not make enough effort to find love in their youth will be grieved when they grow old and have to rely on matchmaking events. The “love conundrum” turns into a robust industry and gives rise to a string of matchmaking television programs and dating websites. “Xiang qin” (Meeting a Blind Date) has become the hottest word in recent years. One is either meeting a blind date, or on one’s way to meet a blind date.
Everyone wishes that his/her other half is perfect in every way, but it is impossible in reality. In today’s world of romance, men and women have different sets of standards for choosing their mates. The major difference of course lies in the material requirements of the other half.
The 2011 survey on marriages and romantic relationships of Chinese people by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs shows, 92% of women polled said the basic requirement for marriage is a “stable income.” 70% agreed that a man must own a home before marrying. 80% of women believe men should earn more than 4,000 yuan (US$635) per month to be in a position to seek romance. (Note: The per capita monthly income of China’s urban residents in 2011 is 1,817 yuan, or US$286). 27.1% even say that men should not seek romance until they make more than 10,000 yuan per month. Well…65% of men have to admit they are severely hindered by the fact that they don’t own a home.
Jack from the United States is getting married. He needs to spend 1,000 dollars on car rental, 4,000 dollars on the first month’s rent for the house, 3,000 dollars on furniture and furnishings, 1,000 dollars on a wedding ring, 4,000 dollars on a week-long honeymoon, 3,000 dollars on the down payment for a car, which add up to 16,000 dollars.
Mr. Liu from Beijing is also getting married. He needs to spend 2.2 million yuan on a new home, 30,000 yuan on wedding rings, 5,000 yuan on wedding photos, 9,000 yuan on a tux, 20,000 yuan on a wedding gown, 2,000 yuan on a pair of shoes, 3,500 on a ceremony host, 20,000 yuan on ceremony planning and preparation, 80,000 yuan on the banquet, which total up to 2.37 million. Marriage seems to be getting more and more expensive.
Is having money synonymous with happiness? Not really. According to the 2011 Single-Person Happiness Survey, less than 20% of respondents have chosen wealth, status and housing as their criteria for happiness, whereas 80% have chosen health, family and marriage. Contrast this result to the requirements for an ideal mate, and you will find a bizarre mentality: When you are still single, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor; but marriage is all about marrying a man of means.
In 2010, 71% of women believed a good job is less important than a good marriage. In 2011, the percentage went down to 57%. Even though the role that economic reasons play in marriage choices has somewhat diminished, income and home ownership are nevertheless top two factors in women’s choices.
However, in August 2011, the New Marriage Law added a judicial proviso, stipulating that property bought by one spouse before marriage, even if on mortgage, belongs solely to the spouse whose name is on the deed; property purchased by the parents of either spouse and registered under their child’s name, is recognized as separate property (and will not be split between the couple on divorce). Consequently, many women and their mothers started to get really upset…
On the one hand, leftover men and women in late 20s and 30s are contemplating whether or not to get married; on the other, married couples are contemplating whether or not to get divorced. In 2011, divorce rate in urban China has reached 34%. In Beijing, the capital city, it is as high as 39%.
The ups and downs of the economy and the caprices of policies have made self-proclaimed city slickers increasingly unclear about their future. Many choose to seize the day, thinking that even earning their bread becomes a headache, much less buying a home. Now that they are in love, why not seize the chance to wave goodbye to single life by jumping into a naked marriage (i.e. with no ceremony or any material basis)! But, where will the future lead them?…
If (lack of a) home has become the major hindrance to marriage, then parents’ attitude is another solid line of defense. Even if the two persons madly in love decide to join hands and get their “little red book” (marriage license), a solid “No” from parents can be a strong signal for a breakup. Because first, wedding is costly; 81.6% of people need varying degrees of financial support from their parents. Secondly, what the wife’s mother wants, and the relationship between the husband’s mother and the wife are the most complicated things in the world. How to tackle frictions among them?…
The social development has changed the way people choose their mates, but love conquers all, and no definitive conclusion should be made about romance. People vary and have their own destiny. Take the Japan earthquake in March, 2011. Many people woke up to reality overnight after that. “Kizuna-kon” (marriage by bond) becomes the word of the year. The crucial part of this type of marriage is “Kizuna”, or bond, which implies fate that bring people together. Instead of fussing over the partner’s income and personal conditions, people flung aside their doubts and plunge into marriage with their loved ones, as long as they can be together. After all, life is too short. One too concerned with personal gains and losses may miss the happiness right under his nose more easily. Love is just love!